About 85 million families in the United States own at least one pet. For many people, their pets are part of the family. For some, a pet might be their only family. They like to take their furry friends just about everywhere. So, it’s no surprise that more businesses throughout the country are opting to be more pet-friendly for their employees and their four-legged friends.
Therapy dogs, service dogs, and emotional support dogs are becoming more common and being used more frequently. People use these animals for everything from illnesses like diabetes to problems with mobility, or even mental health issues like anxiety. Obviously, service dogs are exceptions to a pet policy you might already have in place. But what about employees who just want to bring their dog into work for the day? Would it benefit your business? Would it hurt it?
This article will focus on some of the pros and cons of encouraging a more pet-friendly atmosphere at work, and what you can do to make your place of business more dog-friendly for your employees. By the end, hopefully, you’ll be able to decide if opening up the potion of bringing pets to work is what’s best for your business and your employees.
Pets and Productivity
There are many benefits to allowing dogs in your office. While a big concern for some employers is likely how distracted their employees will be, you might be surprised to learn that, in most cases, it’s just the opposite. Pets can actually help your employees to get more work on a regular basis.
Pets in the workplace can boost morale. Happier employees are more fully engaged in their work, and you can actually see a boost in productivity. Pets can also help to reduce stress in the workplace. Employees who are overly-stressed at work can burn out quickly. About 52% of employees call into work sick more frequently because of stress. Some even change jobs. Finding ways to reduce stress factors within your place of business can increase employee longevity and retention.
Communication and teamwork are extremely important to the success of any business. It just so happens that having pups in the workplace can improve communication between employees, too. Pets tend to make people comfortable with opening up more, and they provide an instantly-shared interest between people that can open the door to more effective communication.
Last, but certainly not least, pets promote general health and wellness in the workplace. Dogs have to be “let out” and exercised several times a day, not only to avoid behavioral issues, but to take them to the bathroom, let them stretch their legs, and socialize. When a dog has to go outside to take a walk, their owner does, too.
Even a few 10-minute stretches or quick walks during the workday can make a big difference for employees who are otherwise behind their desks all day. It promotes cardiovascular health, respiratory health, and can offer a boost of energy. If health and wellness are priorities in your business, allowing pets in the building is a great way to encourage people to get up and moving.
What Are the Dangers of Having Pets in the Office?
Of course, it’s not fair to talk about all of the great things that pets in the office give to your business without going over some of the potential risks and considerations you should make.
One of the biggest potential problems is allergies. About three in 10 people who suffer from allergies are allergic to either dogs or cats. So, it’s fairly safe to say that someone in your workplace will have a pet allergy. While some are more severe than others, the last thing you want to do is make an employee miserable by having dogs around.
If one or more of your employees have life-threatening allergies, it may not be safe to have pets in the office. But there are some ways you can work around it. You can limit pets to a certain building, room, or area of your business. Alternatively, you can allow some of your employees who might have allergies to work remotely. Offering something like that can also help to boost their productivity while saving your company time and money due to reduced maintenance and overhead costs.
Dog bites can also be a problem. While many dogs are docile, calm, and friendly, it’s not unheard of for a dog to occasionally bite someone. In fact, there are about 4.7 million dog bites that occur in the United States each year.
When dogs are around new people in a new environment, that risk becomes even greater. In January of 2018 alone, over 4.2 million workers in the U.S. missed work because of some kind of illness or injury. Running the risk of dog bites on the job could cause you to lose valuable employees.
Finally, even though dogs can help to boost productivity and increase motivation, they can also sometimes be a distraction. If you have employees who aren’t happy with their work or the environment and they start to bring a dog with them, it may just distract them even more from work at hand. It’s a good idea to get a general feel for your workplace and how many people might be interested in having pets with them. The last thing you want is for your pet-friendly place of business to turn into a less-than-professional funhouse.
Big Businesses Who Get it Right
Did you know that dog-friendly businesses tend to attract more prospective employees? Some of the biggest, most successful businesses in the world allow their employees to bring pets into work, including Google, Amazon, and the BBC. Google even has company dogs that can roam around their offices.
The idea is that these dogs help to boost morale, lower stress, and increase productivity among employees. In a high-stress job, that can make a big difference in how employees feel and how long they stay in their position.
What these major companies are doing by being more pet-friendly is opening their doors to a whole new world of prospective employees. These are businesses that understand the kinds of benefits their employees really want. While a 401k plan is nice (and should be included in a benefits package), most people are looking at what unique things a particular job can offer them, including remote options, spa days, or the ability to bring their dog to work.
Google, for example, is always on the lookout for new talent to bring onto their team. Imagine how much easier it would be to find the perfect candidate for the job if you could offer them the best benefits imaginable. Google is known for offering employee benefits that people want, and they are able to draw in a lot of talent because of it. When you think about the future of your company and what you want it to look like, considering some of those “newer” benefits is important to help you achieve success.
How to Turn Your Workplace Into a Pet-Friendly Environment
If you’ve weighed out the pros and cons and you’re ready to make your business into a pet-friendly place for your employees, you have to know the best way to do it. That means having some ground rules in place.
Every company’s pet policy is different, but some things to keep in mind when creating your own set of rules include:
- Making sure any pets that come on the premises are up to date with their shots/vaccines.
- Enforcing “clean up” rules if a pet has an accident anywhere in the building.
- Asking that dogs be properly trained before allowing them onto the property.
- Making sure dogs aren’t allowed to walk around without supervision or without a leash.
It’s also okay to allow employees who are bringing dogs to “pet-proof” their work area. This includes doing things like cleaning up cables from the floor that could pass as new things to chew on and keeps your desk as clean and organized as possible.
What can you do to make your business more friendly toward pets? For starters, you can have dog toys and treats in certain designated areas. Every dog likes playing with a new toy! It can help to keep them occupied for several hours while their owner works. You should also encourage your employees to bring a toy or familiar item from home to make their dog feel comfortable.
Being a pet-friendly employer has a lot of perks — both for you, and your company. It takes a little bit of planning and the proper execution, but allowing pets into your business could be the boost your business needs. When your employees are happy and feel content, they’re likely to do better work for you. Not only that, but they’re more likely to stay with your company, and you’ll have a better chance of bringing in new talent, too. As a result, your business can continue to grow. You can proudly say you’ve literally “gone to the dogs!”